Hydrology of the Palo Duro Basin, Texas Panhandle


The heterogeneous aquifer/aquitard system observed in the Palo Duro and Dalhart Basins is the outcome of prolonged cycles of various sedimentation styles. The sedimentary sequence is effectively partitioned into deep and shallow flow systems. The relatively permeable formations are vertically segregated by a thick interval of Middle- and Upper Permian evaporites and fine-grained red beds, which serve as an aquitard, restricting water flow.

Following the frameworks developed by Maxey (1964) and Toth (1978), Bassett and Bentley (in press) identified several hydrogeologic elements in the Palo Duro Basin. These elements are categorized based on their relative water-conducting or water-retarding characteristics, such as the Ogallala Aquifer or Evaporite Aquitard. In instances where a hydrogeologic element consists of both permeable lithology and mudstone interbeds, the designation of aquifer/aquitard is determined by the properties of the more permeable strata.

Hydrogeologic units are assemblies of vertically adjacent strata sharing similar hydraulic properties, although they may have different primary lithologies. Each hydrogeologic unit comprises one or more hydrogeologic elements. In the Palo Duro Basin, Bassett and Bentley identified five hydrogeologic units: (1) Basement Aquiclude, (2) Deep-Basin Brine Aquifer, (3) Basin Shale Aquitard, (4) Evaporite Aquitard, and (5) Upper Aquifer. The permeabilities listed in Table 1 and shown in Figure 1 represent typical values obtained from literature sources or determined through drill-stem tests analysis.


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